• Resilience, which is a key building block of organizational agility, is supported by two characteristics: a positive attitude and confidence.
• A positive attitude enhances problem-solving and decision-making and opens people up to a broader range of thoughts and behaviors that will help them bounce back from setbacks.
• A healthy level of confidence gives people the self-assurance and determination to take in new information, recognize its potential usefulness and take decisive action.
• To build a more positive, confident workforce in an era constant change and disruption, encourage and reward risk-taking and make sure people have the skills and clarity to adapt.
Wouter Aghina of McKinsey once described agility as being the opposite of fragility. Instead of getting weaker — or breaking — under the pressure of force or stress, agile organizations not only bounce back, they thrive on change and even get stronger.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has created unprecedented turmoil in business and in all aspects of our daily lives, has underscored the need for agility to deal with uncertainty and disruption. It’s also shown us why resilience is so important. Resilient people who are able to adapt, recover and learn from these tough experiences are the true source of competitive advantage for agile organizations.
Resilience requires a mindset that is open to information and primed to succeed, and that mindset is supported by two specific characteristics: a positive attitude and confidence. Both play a role in helping people listen, learn and achieve, qualities that are increasingly vital as digital transformation continues to disrupt the workplace.
How a Positive Attitude Supports Agility
People with a positive outlook expect positive outcomes — and get them more often than those without it. In many cases, positivity also enhances problem-solving and decision-making and helps people think more flexibly, creatively and innovatively. As a result, people who go into a challenging situation with a positive attitude will often be more proactive at coming up with workable solutions and able to quickly make decisions so that they can take advantage of new opportunities. And that’s what agility is all about.
Scientists have looked into why a positive attitude can have such a powerful impact and help people be more resilient in the face of adverse events. Unlike negativity, which tends to put limits on what you see as possible, scientists theorize that positivity expands your view. It opens you up to a broader range of potential thoughts and behaviors, and, over time, this helps you build the kind of physical, intellectual, social and psychological resources to bounce back when there are setbacks.
Failure can be paralyzing. But positive people don’t fear failure. They view it as something to deal with and learn from. They understand that failure comes with the territory when you’re striving to be more innovative and agile in a rapidly changing world.
How Confidence Supports Agility
Don’t confuse self-confidence with arrogance. Arrogance usually stems from over-confidence. People who are self-confident, on the other hand, have a healthy belief in themselves and in their abilities. They believe that they can accomplish what they set out to do. It’s a conviction that comes from within as well as from their interactions with the broader world.
Self-confidence enables people to be more agile, in part, because it removes some unnecessary distractions. Self-confident people don’t have to worry about how they’re going to react to new information or think about how they’ll shift the blame if things go wrong. They can stay focused on taking in new information and recognizing how it might be useful. This is vital for agility since information and feedback can come from all sides, whether it’s big data or AI-generated analysis or one-on-one conversations with employees and customers.
Confidence also propels people to act rather than second-guessing every decision. If problems do happen, they have the self-assurance and determination to learn from the mistakes and keep pushing through.
How to Promote Positivity and Build Self-Confidence
When the 24-7 news cycle is anything but uplifting, especially in light of the current crisis, negative emotions will spill over into the workplace. While it’s true that some people naturally have a sunny outlook and an innate sense of self-confidence, this isn’t business as usual for anyone. Regardless of external circumstances, though, organizations and their leaders, in particular, can take specific steps to develop an environment that promotes a positive attitude and confidence throughout the workforce.
In fact, it’s something nearly every organization should be focusing on, especially since only 31% of respondents in our recent global survey of more than 3,500 full-time employees strongly agree that people in their organization have a generally positive attitude toward new information. In an environment that’s not only inundated with information but also increasingly data-driven, you can’t remain competitive if people don’t have a positive mindset, confidence in their abilities and a willingness to learn and keep moving forward — to see change as an opportunity instead of a threat.
To develop a positive, confident workforce, start here:
- Make risk-taking a cultural value: In a culture of blame and fear, failure is punished and risk-taking is avoided at all costs. People are constantly worried about getting in trouble and terrified of making the wrong move. So they become closed off to new information and struggle to make decisions. It’s hard to feel positive or be agile in an environment like that.
In cultures where risk-taking is supported and failure is accepted as part of the process of innovation rather something to be punished for, people have a more positive attitude toward change. They not only bounce back faster, they learn from their mistakes and, as a result, emerge stronger than ever.
To promote positivity, banish blame. Encourage people to take risks, see the possibilities in new ideas and embrace failure as a learning opportunity. Leaders need to set the tone — by making it okay to fail and by owning up to their mistakes.
- Prepare people for changing skills and roles: The proliferation of digital technology is not only affecting business processes and the customer experience — it’s affecting people’s jobs. We’ve already seen assembly lines automate. Now, automation, big data and AI are becoming integrated into nearly every type of business. Financial institutions are using AI to collect and process data to establish credit risk. Retailers use it to recommend future purchases. Chatbot technology has completely changed the call center business.
As organizations embrace this digital transformation, many employees are having a crisis of confidence, worried they’re going to lose their jobs to technology. Leaders and L&D professionals need to be proactive about addressing this issue, because the success of digital transformation efforts will ultimately hinge on how resilient—and by extension, positive and confident—the people in the organization are.
To build self-confidence, be upfront about what’s changing, and then make sure your development strategies focus on continual learning and building the must-have soft skills this new environment requires.
For more strategies on developing your organization’s agility and resilience in an era of digital transformation, download our full report: The New Competitive Divide: Building the Foundation for Organizational Agility .